Prob. Died Young, Or How Pat Ryan Lost His Eye (As a Union Soldier) (6)

Lawrence C. Byrd, Death Record, Union Service Packet
Lawrence Cherry Byrd, Civil War Service Record, NARA, M399, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Arkansas, Personal Papers; RG 94, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, compiled 1890 – 1912, documenting the period 1861 – 1866.

As I ended my last posting about the Civil War pension claims filed by Patrick Ryan and his widow Delilah Rinehart Ryan in Grant County, Arkansas, I mentioned that one of the threads tying together the network of families represented in these combined pension files is that men from several of these families were Union soldiers during the war —in a state that seceded from the Union, from families living in the central and southern part of Arkansas where Confederate sentiment was stronger than it was in the northern half of the state. As we’ve seen, Pat Ryan’s first wife Rosanna Hill Spann was the widow of John H. Spann, who served in the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry along with Pat Ryan, as did John Spann’s brother James Jasper Spann, who enlisted in Little Rock in Co. K of this Union unit on the same day that Pat Ryan did, 8 November 1863.

As previous postings have noted (here and here), the Batchelor family, which ties to Pat Ryan’s family by the marriage of George Richard Batchelor (1845-1907) to Pat’s sister Catherine, came to Hot Spring (later Grant) County, Arkansas, from Hardin County, Tennessee — where both the Spann and Hodges family also lived before members of those interrelated families moved to Itawamba County, Mississippi, and to central Arkansas. As James B. Phillips notes, though Hardin is a West Tennessee county bordering Mississippi and Alabama and located in the part of Tennessee in which the plantation system and slaveholding flourished, it was among the few Tennessee counties outside East Tennessee that voted against secession.[1]

Hardin County voted to remain in the Union in both state plebiscites about secession, in fact. Civil War historian Bruce Catton indicates that Lincoln and Grant chose Hardin County as the venue for a major military operation — the battle at Shiloh — precisely because its pro-Union leanings were well known to them.[2] George R. Batchelor’s uncle Dr. Wilson Bachelor (1827-1903), who remained in Hardin County after George’s father Moses B. Batchelor and his sister Hannah Delaney Batchelor (1819-abt. 1863) and husband Lawrence Cherry Byrd (1822-1864) moved in 1846 and 1848 to Hot Spring County, Arkansas, was a Unionist, who was appointed physician in charge of building the national cemetery at Shiloh.[3]

Lawrence Cherry Byrd served in a Union Army unit, Smith’s Independent, which was tasked with reporting to Union leaders the movements of Confederates in central Arkansas. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Little Rock.[4] Byrd’s service records show that he died of chronic diarrhea in a hospital in Little Rock on 28 August 1864.[5] (This document is at the head of this posting.) A tradition handed down in the Batchelor and Byrd families indicates that Lawrence’s widow Delaney died soon after her husband’s death, having lost her sanity when her husband died. Her brother Dr. Wilson Bachelor alludes to this story in a 6 February 1899 letter to Lawrence and Delaney’s daughter Melissa Ann, who married Joshua Marion Robertson/Robinson (1853-1925), in which he speaks of his sister “who in the wilds of Arkansas Succombed to disease and mental hallucination.”[6]

Byrd, Lawrence Cherry Tombstone, Little Rock National Cemetery, Find a Grave Memorial 20793945, Uploaded by CJ
Lawrence Cherry Byrd Tombstone, Little Rock National Cemetery, Find a Grave Memorial 20793945, Uploaded by Find a Grave member CJ.

Joshua Marion Robertson/Robinson[7] was the son of Washington Robertson (bef. 1815-1853/4) and Louisa Waters (1821-1887), who moved to central Arkansas in 1853 with a colony of settlers from Fayette and Tuscaloosa Counties, Alabama, headed by Louisa’s father Reverend John Waters (abt. 1800-1869/1870), a Baptist minister.[8] Washington Robertson died in 1853-1854, probably in Hot Spring County, and Louisa then remarried around October 1860 to Moses B. Batchelor, whose first wife Minerva Monk Batchelor had died in late summer or early fall 1860, following her enumeration in Moses’ household in Hot Spring County on 14 August.[9]

Serving in the same Union Army unit, Smith’s Independent, in which Lawrence Cherry Byrd served, was Louisa’s brother Asa Waters (1845-1864). Asa died 2 May 1864, and as with Lawrence Cherry Byrd, is buried at the Little Rock National Cemetery, his burial register card stating that he, too, was a member of Smith’s Independent Company. His service papers also state that he was a member of this company and that he died in the hospital in Little Rock of meningitis.[10]

And there’s more: another son of Washington Robertson and Louisa Waters, George Anderson Robertson/Robinson (1843-1913) was a Confederate soldier whose CSA service records state that he “deserted 9 July 1863 USA.” George A. Robinson apparently served from that date to the end of the war as a Union soldier. George’s first wife was, records of his descendants indicate, Delilah Rinehart Ryan’s sister Rachel Devisa Rinehart,

His CSA service packet shows him enlisting 20 July 1861 at Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in Co. E, 12th AR Infantry.[11] On the same date, his brother John William Robinson and his step-brother James Decalvin Batchelor, a son of Moses B. Batchelor and Minerva Monk, enlisted in the same unit, along with James’ cousins William, Pleasant, and Wilson Byrd, sons of Lawrence Cherry Byrd and Delaney Batchelor Byrd. James was killed in battle at Columbus, Kentucky, on 20 November 1861. George A. Robinson was captured by Union forces on 8 April 1862 at Island 10 near the confluence of the Mississippi River with the Ohio River, and was sent to Camp Douglas, Illinois, and then to Port Hudson, Louisiana, where his CSA service papers note his desertion to “USA.” On 18 April 1864, he took the oath of allegiance, with this document indicating that he lived at Rockport, Hot Spring County, Arkansas.

The service packets of George’s brother and a William Rinehart (the name is spelled Rhinehart in the military documents) who served in the same unit show that both were also captured at Island 10 along with George A. Robinson, and that John and William Rinehart escaped together, after which I find no further military record for either man. William Rinehart was, it appears, a first cousin of Delilah Rinehart Ryan and Rachel Rinehart Robinson.

I have not been able to document either George A. Robinson’s marriage to Rachel Devisa Rinehart, or his service as a Union soldier — beyond the statement in his CSA service record that he deserted to the Union Army on 9 July 1863. George’s descendants have a specific date for his marriage to Rachel D. Rinehart — 20 November 1864 — and think the marriage took place in Pulaski County, Arkansas. I have not found any other record documenting this marriage.

However, a letter George wrote to his mother Louisa Batchelor on 9 November 1884 from Boughton in Nevada County, Arkansas, where he was a judge following the war, indicates that George had had two wives by this date, both of whom had died. In the letter, George tells his mother that his second wife, Mary Van Buren Miers, whom he married 24 January 1867 in Pulaski County, had died on the 7th of erysipelas. The letter states, “I am Cald on this Morning to communicat to you the Death of Hear that have bin so kind to me for near 18 years this is the second time that I have been Deprived of a Dear Companion[.]”

Robinson, George A. Letter to Mother 9 Nov 1884 (1)
Letter of George Anderson Robinson to Louisa Waters (Robertson) (Batchelor), 9 Nobember 1884; original in possession of family of Elsie Hodges, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Robinson, George A. Letter to Mother 9 Nov 1884 (2)

This letter, along with a copy of a photo of George and his third wife Malinda Jane Fairchild, came to me in a curious way. In 1989, while I was teaching at Xavier University in New Orleans, I was awarded a spring-semester fellowship at the Center for the Humanities at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. After I finished that fellowship, I received a phone call from a cousin in Pine Bluff, Arkansas — Elsie Hodges, whose mother Janie Delaney Byrd (1879-1962) married Madison Levi McBurnett (1882-1942). Janie was the daughter of Samuel Delaney Byrd (1852-1890) and Polly Ann Thrower (1859-1883); Samuel was a son of Lawrence Cherry Byrd and Hannah Delaney Batchelor.

Elsie called to tell me that an antiques dealer in Helena, Arkansas, had obtained a trunk that had belonged to her great-aunt Melissa Ann Byrd Robinson, which had  in it a collection of old family letters, photographs, and other documents. The antiques vendor recognized the historical value of this material, and made inquiries to see if he could find anyone connected to the families named in the letters and documents in the trunk. Those inquiries led him to Elsie Hodges, who bought the trunk and wanted me to see the precious old letters and photographs in it.

Robinson, George A. and Wife Malinda Fairchild
George Anderson Robinson and Malinda Jane Fairchild Robinson; original in possession of family of Elsie Hodges, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

The 1884 letter of George A. Robinson to his mother Louisa, and the picture of George and his wife Malinda, which he had sent to his brother Joshua, Melissa Byrd’s husband, were in the trunk. Also in the trunk were letters George had sent to family members from Corvallis, Oregon, where George and his family moved in 1895. I had just spent several months in that Oregon city, not having any idea that I had a connection to the place through a step-son of my 2-great-grandfather Moses B. Batchelor through his second marriage, to Louisa Waters, the widow Robertson.

George’s decision to change from the Confederate to the Union side in the middle of the Civil War: this was not an unusual choice. Not a few men in central Arkansas who initially served on the Confederate side switched sides during the war. Among those was John Fenter (1840-1920), a son of David Fenter and Martha Fisher of Fenter township in Hot Spring County — a township that fell into Grant County at that county’s formation in 1869. Moses and Louisa Batchelor’s home place fell into this township when Grant County was formed. Moses Batchelor’s youngest son by wife Minerva Monk, Edward Eli Batchelor (1849-1920), married Mary Paralee Bagley (1855-1936), a daughter of John Fenter’s sister Sarah Fenter (1833-1913), who married Asher Bagley (1813-abt. 1882).

Here’s a snippet from a biography of John Fenter’s father David Fenter and his family in Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Central Arkansas, Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland, and Hot Spring Counties. As it indicates, John began his Civil War service in March 1862 as a Confederate soldier, and in 1863, went over to the Union side as a matter of conscience.

Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Central Arkansas, Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Frant, Saline, Perry, Garland, and Hot Spring Counties (Chicago, Goodspeed,
Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Central Arkansas, Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland, and Hot Spring Counties (Chicago, Goodspeed, 1889), p. 765.

I noted previously that I have not been able to confirm George A. Robinson’s service in the Union Army, beyond the statement in his Confederate service papers that he deserted to the Union side. George’s descendants in Oregon are confident of his Union service, however, and tell me that it has long been a part of their family lore. What I do find is a 24 May 1896 letter that George sent to the Corvallis Times newspaper, in which he states, “I was formerly a republican, and was a soldier in the Union army, from which I was honorably discharged in June 1865.”

Robinson, George A., Corvallis Times, 24 May 1896, p. 3, col. 2
Corvallis [Oregon] Times,>/i> 24 May 1896, p. 3, col. 2.
Robinson, George A., Corvallis Times, 24 May 1896, p. 3, col. 2 copy 3

Interestingly enough, however, a Friday, 18 October 1889, article in the Arkansas Gazette, reporting on the Hempstead County fair then underway in Hope, Arkansas, states that the preceding Wednesday had been “soldier day,” and that the fairgrounds had been full of “old Confeds,” who included one G.A. Robinson of the 12th Arkansas.

Perhaps it’s with good reason that George A. Robinson’s obituary in the Albany Democrat of Albany, Oregon, judiciously states, as it mentions George’s Civil War service, that he “served through the war.” With no mention of the side(s) on which he served . . . .

Robinson, George A., Obit, Albany Democrat (Albany, Oregon) Tue, Jul 1, 1913 p 3
Obituary of George Anderson Robinson, Albany Democrat (Albany, Oregon), 1 July 1913, p. 3.

This is the sixth posting in a nine-part series about this topic. The previous posting in this series is here, and the next posting in the series is here. That posting will end with a link taking you to the next in the series, if you’re interested in following this series to the end.

[1] James B. Phillips, “Hardin County,” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

[2] Bruce Catton, Grant Moves South (Boston: Little, Brown,1 960), pp. 222–223, 298–929. Larry J. Daniel also notes the exceptionally strong Union sympathy in Hardin County, which was, as he notes, “well known”: see Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), pp. 77–78. Daniel notes that the locals in Savannah welcomed the Unionists when troops arrived in town, and many local residents joined Union army units.

[3] See William D. Lindsey, ed., Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth-Century Country Doctor and Philosopher (Fayetteville: Univ. of Arkansas Press, 2013). Lawrence C. and Delaney Batchelor Byrd came to Hot Spring County in 1846; her brother Moses, whose wife Minerva Monk was a first cousin of Lawrence C. Byrd, made the same move in 1848. Lawrence C. Byrd was the son of William Edward Byrd and Lovey Cherry; Minerva Monk was the daughter of Strachan Monk and Talitha Cherry. Lovey and Talitha were both daughters of Jesse Cherry and Elizabeth Gainer of Martin Co., North Carolina.

[4] The Little Rock National Cemetery Interment Control forms for the cemetery have a form for his burial, stating that he died 29 August 1864 and was a member of Smith’s Independent Company. The form also indicates that this company is “not identified” (see NARA, National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928 – 1962, A1 2110-B, box 39; RG 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774 – 1985). The burial register for the cemetery, 1863-1867, p. 27, contains a listing for this burial (#938), which states that L.C. Byrd died on 29 August 1864, and was a private in Smith’s Independent Company (see NARA, Burial Registers, compiled 1867-2006, documenting the period 1831-2006; RG 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773–2007).

[5] NARA, M399, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Arkansas, Personal Papers; RG 94, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, compiled 1890 – 1912, documenting the period 1861 – 1866.

[6] The letter is transcribed in Fiat Flux (see supra), p. 135.

[7] Both spellings of the surname are found in family records and public documents; by the generation of Joshua, the Robinson spelling began to prevail and has been used since then.

[8] See Silas Emmett Lucas, “The Lucas-Dodson Families,” Annals of Northwest Alabama, p. 213, n. 3. Census data regarding the birthplaces of the children of Washington Robertson and Lousia Waters, who married 12 July 1834 in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, indicate that the family moved first from Alabama to Mississippi (possibly Tishomingo County) between 1843 and 1847, before they joined Louisa’s father and his colony in moving to Arkansas in 1853.

[9] 1860 federal census, Hot Spring Co., Arkansas, Big Creek twp., Rockport post office, Hot Spring Co., Arkansas, p. 1012 (dwel. 448, 14 August). Louisa Robinson is in the same township, same post office, listed as head of her family: p. 1018, dwel. 49, 16 August.

[10] See NARA, National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928 – 1962, A1 2110-B, box 308; RG 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774 – 1985. The burial register for the cemetery, 1863-1867, p. 24, contains a listing for this burial (#938), which states that L.C. Byrd died on 29 August 1864, and was a private in Smith’s Independent Company (see NARA, Burial Registers, compiled 1867-2006, documenting the period 1831-2006; RG 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773–2007). See also NARA, M399, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Arkansas, Personal Papers; RG 94, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, compiled 1890 – 1912, documenting the period 1861 – 1866.

[11] NARA M317, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Arkansas; RG 109, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations , compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865.

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